Thursday, January 24, 2002

Program to help felons get work helps employers

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Trey Haas admits there is more than a touch of irony in the way the company owned by his family became involved in a court-administered program to provide jobs for convicted felons.

        The company, National Band & Tag in Newport, lost an employee who owed back child support payments, but filled the empty position with another parent owing back support through the Community Corrections Program administered by Campbell County Circuit Judge William Wehr.

        “We had a guy who was working for us and when he found out he owed back payments, he took off,” said Mr. Haas, vice president of production at National Band & Tag. “We put a sign in the window looking for someone to work, and a man came in holding the sign and said he wanted the job. He was involved in the Community Corrections Program.”

        The Community Corrections Program, started by the Kentucky Department of Corrections in 1992, is designed to provide services through public and private agencies for offenders as part of their sentencing.

        The Campbell County program, which also monitors offenders' progress, began in 1998 with funding through a state grant. The first two years of the program were spent in developing administrative details and a client base.

        Since the program's inception, there has been a total savings to the state of $315,758, the cost of 1,049 days of incarceration. And in the same period the program has resulted in the collection of $31,607 for child support, restitution, costs and fines.

        Newport lawyer Tom Beiting, a former local and federal law enforcement officer who is also president of the Newport Business Association, became involved in the Community Corrections Program through a former law enforcement partner and retired officer, Harold Guckiean, who is the program's enforcement officer.

        “When (Mr. Guckiean) applied for this program, I helped him,” Mr. Beiting said. “The more I learned, the more benefits I could see for the business community and the city, to address unemployment problems.”

        Mr. Beiting, who is a criminal defense attorney, said he found that “Generally, the people in this program have gotten behind in child support for one of several reasons and they need some direction, some monitoring. They're not bad people, just debtors.”

        After meeting with Mr. Guckiean, Judge Wehr and Campbell District Court Judge Greg Popovich, Mr. Beiting said he encouraged the members of the business association to take advantage of the program. Two of the first to do so were National Band & Tag and Trauth Dairy.

        “There is no downside to this,” he said. “It helps the business community, and gives people back their dignity.

        Mr. Haas said the man he hired through the program “is here every day, has to be here every day. He told me he has to go to court every week to check in. He's our janitor, but he does a lot more than that. He occasionally makes tags, does tumbling and cleaning of tags, and other jobs. He's been a real asset.”

        Mr. Beiting pointed out that the people involved in the program are regularly reminded that if they miss work or fail a drug or alcohol test, they go directly to jail.

        From its inception, the Campbell County program has served 29 clients, providing such services as counseling, education, aftercare treatment, community service, drug testing and day detention. All clients are required to have a high school education or be working on a GED, and must be employed.

        Two examples of people taking advantage of the program are:

        • A 39-year-old man, sentenced for flagrant nonsupport, who will have three years of service in the program. He has home incarceration and a curfew, must attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and must make regular child support payments.

        • A 41-year-old woman, charged with theft, who is serving 12 months in the program. She is working on her GED, must abide by a curfew and must make restitution.


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- Program to help felons get work helps employers